About science, scientists and the impact of pesticides

About science, scientists and the impact of pesticides

By Ing. Agr. (Ms. Sc) Javier Souza Casadinho

That pesticides cause harm to health does not have the characteristic of novelty, hundreds of researchers around the world affirm it, and it is not an ideological question, it is something that is proven in laboratory tests and in field investigations, such as those we carry out in the horticultural areas of Buenos Aires, in the soy production area in Santiago del Estero, in the Misionera tobacco area, etc. Knowledge obtained by different methodological strategies: prospective and retrospective studies, life histories, epidemiological studies carried out in communities.

All decisions have their cost, also decisions of a political nature such as the acceptance of prohibiting or restricting the use of an agrochemical, such as allowing its free commercialization. For example, a year ago the German authorities decided to withdraw from the market two pesticides widely used in Argentina; imidacloprid and fipronil. This prohibition was based on research that indicated its incidence in the life of bees, in this case causing alterations in the nervous system until they died.

It was a political decision based on scientific information conditioned by the need to preserve the life of bees and the activity of beekeepers. Meanwhile in our country, also due to a political decision, the commercialization of a large quantity of pesticides with a high social and environmental cost is allowed; poisonings, development of diseases and death of human beings, loss of biological diversity, contamination of water courses. As a researcher, I am concerned both with the scientific truths and the social, environmental and economic impact that pesticides produce, defending the right that helps us to live on a planet free of toxins.

Scientific knowledge is originated in certain research centers - public and private. Knowledge generated by researchers must meet some characteristics; be objective, systematic, verifiable, neutral, etc., etc. A large part of the knowledge that we have created by researchers from the country and from other nations, both in the public and private spheres, about the impact of pesticides has the characteristics of scientific, that is, it has the characteristics described and was also generated by accepted procedures for whom we do science; We propose objectives, review existing knowledge, establish a methodological strategy with data sources, instruments, determination of samples, etc. and what is more important, we submit the knowledge we have obtained, as well as the strategy that made it possible to obtain it, to the judgment of other researchers and of society as a whole.

That pesticides cause harm to health does not have the characteristic of novelty, hundreds of researchers around the world affirm it, and it is not an ideological question, it is something that is proven in laboratory tests and in field investigations, such as those we carry out in the horticultural areas of Buenos Aires, in the soy production area in Santiago del Estero, in the Misionera tobacco area, etc. Knowledge obtained by different methodological strategies: prospective and retrospective studies, life histories, epidemiological studies carried out in communities.

DDT was not banned after the Stockholm meeting in the 1970s. In a long process it was banned in each country. In ours, it began to be banned in the early 1970s to be used in animal baths as antisárnic, but until 1995 it was used in health campaigns against insect vectors of diseases. Furthermore, at present there are areas of the country contaminated with DDT and other substances that contain chlorine in their structure, as a result of the storage of these obsolete pesticides in terrible conditions that determine their drag by wind and rain and even their use by communities. They ignore their ability to cause harm. Situation that could be partially verified from the actions emanating from the plan of activities derived from the Stockholm Convention.

The coup de grace to DDT was given both by the production of scientific knowledge that demonstrated how it impacted health, as well as the struggles of the affected people and communities. Of course, brave people are needed to announce it and denounce it to society, this role was played by Rachel Carlson. There is only one science, there is no pseudo science, although there are pseudoscientists, from this we can obtain a long list in the examples enunciated by Marie Monique Robin in the book "The world according to Monsanto".

Ignorance about malaria consists in believing that it can be fought with only DDT. The causes that originate malaria - for Latin America malaria - correspond to the living conditions of the people: poverty, the accumulation of water, the accumulation of garbage. In this case, it is convenient to analyze and take into account two aspects: the countries that effectively combatted malaria did so with greater empowerment of the communities, with greater participation in the cleaning of water sources and pastures, with access to medicines, without deposit the entire mosquito management strategy on isolated and ineffective chemical techniques. On the other hand, the permanent use of pesticides recreated resistance conditions in insects, for which higher doses of pesticides are required to kill them.

Regarding its toxicity, DDT, like other chlorinated pesticides, have been included in the list of pesticides that can cause cancer, which, like malaria, kill people. This pesticide, in addition to other substances that accumulate in the environment and are resistant to degradation, have been included in the Stockholm Convention. According to this convention, more than 100 countries have banned the use of DDT and in a few countries only restricted use is allowed to combat insect vectors of diseases. It is not real that the World Health Organization is reviewing its ban, since this organization promotes the adoption of comprehensive management strategies. Proof of the latter is given by the expert report on the evaluation of the production and use of DDT and its alternatives for disease vector control presented on May 5 of this year at the Stockholm Convention meeting held in Switzerland. .

Regarding the fact that each period has its Rachel Carlson, perhaps there is no better compliment for Marie Monique Robin, but it is worth noting that Marie visited Argentina at the invitation of the publisher that printed her book and by the Latin American Pesticide Action Network that together with the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of La Plata, the free chair of food sovereignty of the same university, the Agroecological Movement of Latin America, the environmental forum of Los Toldos –Bs. As.-, The Chair of Sociology and Rural Extension of the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires, FANA of the student center of the same Faculty and Citizen Forum of Participation for Justice and Human Rights. A group of institutions that do research, training, complaints about the impact of pesticides and are in great contact with the communities affected by the applications of these toxins. Institutions and organizations that also do research and disseminate strategies for the production of food in an agroecological way.

Using countless quotes, research and interviews, the book "The World According to Monsanto" describes a series of company strategies to manipulate research and how it has tried, in vain, to demonstrate the safety of pesticides. The chapter dedicated to 2, 4, 5 T, a product used in Vietnam and used in Argentina until it was banned in 1984, is important. This chapter analyzes how little attention was paid to the way of production of the pesticide, thus The minimum safety standards were not respected, affecting the American workers, in the same way it was used indiscriminately to destroy the Vietnamese jungle vegetation. Even today children are born affected by these fumigations.

However, the rejection of a technology can not only occur by obtaining scientific knowledge that proves its impact on health, but reasons of a philosophical, ethical and cultural nature can exist and must be accepted.

The trimming of the words enunciated by the communities, the sayings, the statements cannot be made arbitrarily, throughout the world thousands of inhabitants of the communities provide samples with words, and marks on their own body, of the impact of pesticides in their health, an aspect that makes it impossible for them to develop a full life.

The reasons why a substance “gets on the table” are related to its impact on health. Product that is reached after a long and complex process that is arrived at after the collection, elaboration and analysis of data where not only its capacity to produce acute and chronic diseases is analyzed, but the existence of alternatives both inside and outside the system. An example of the latter are modes of production that, such as agroecological, allow us to produce food without using toxic substances.

The 2, 4, 5 T, paration, chlordane, were banned for their impact on health and not for causes derived from political pressure. Ignoring the mechanisms that are established, for example the Stockholm Convention where the procedures to prohibit or restrict the use of products are determined, is very serious. There, regulations are established, research is analyzed, tests are required, laboratory and field studies are carried out, before a product is banned. Of course the discussions are technical and also political. It is really unethical to consider as “regrettable” the success achieved by banning highly polluting substances and preventing the death of children, adults –women and men-, hundreds of producers, workers and inhabitants of areas adjacent to the fumigated fields.

Modern agriculture carried out in Argentina based on the adoption of a technological package based on transgenic seeds, fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides has a great environmental impact, which is why the claim that they have performed a great service to the environment is not credible, much for on the contrary, they have produced contamination of rivers and streams, loss of diversity, clearing, etc. They have even impacted on other activities such as beekeeping. One cannot speak of sustainability when the adoption of a highly capital-demanding technological package is required, for those who can apply it, energy and environmental impact.

It is sad and outrageous that thousands of people around the world have their lives affected by pesticides. We have many examples and stories of the pesticide bans made in Argentina. The continuity in the market of a large number of highly dangerous products is worrying. Policy-based continuity and access, related to business pressures concerned with short-term profitability. For its part, those of us who defend the existence of a profitable and truly sustainable agricultural production are concerned with respect for the life of human beings and the rest of the living beings that inhabit this planet and with whom we are interdependent. In spite of it, science and ideology mix because we both make them human beings, and from this reading the book "The world according to Monsanto" and analyzing the Argentine and world reality we have many examples of how in vain we try to manipulate the results of the investigations that always speak for themselves.

Ing. Sc) Javier Souza Casadinho - Regional coordinator of the Network for Action on Pesticides and their Alternatives in Latin America - RAPAL -


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